Patrolling is one of the essential components of community policing. Patrol officers are usually assigned to monitor specific areas in order to keep trouble at bay. The public tends to be well acquainted with patrol officers, whether their patrol services are motorized or on foot. They are responsible for responding to distress radio calls, resolving civil disputes and conducting traffic enforcement duties. More often than not, they make arrests and indulge in other crime prevention techniques. They are usually the first to arrive at a scene (of any nature) and therefore greatly influence the outcomes of subsequent investigations. The develop contacts on the ground who provide information for them since they have direct and frequent contact with the community. The main objectives of patrols is to increase contact with the community by building a formidable rapport between the involved parties. Furthermore, it is aimed at improving community policing whereby law enforcement officers work in collaboration with the community to curb or minimize crime.
Foot patrols have been in existence for a long time and was one of the earliest forms of policing. Many police departments in the country still heavily rely on foot patrols despite the popularity of motorized patrols. This is because most law enforcement arms have realized that foot patrols have a greater effect on the community as they are more aware of who protects them. It has been reported to foster better relationships between the community and the police force because the former sees a humanizing aspect of the latter. For departments that do not have large financial budgets, foot and bicycle patrols come in handy. Much as foot patrols are better at predicting the probability of a crime occurring . However, foot patrols face a myriad of issues that revolve around resources, infrastructure and community policing issues. First, building collective and effective trust in multi-ethnic neighborhoods is difficult. This difficulty has been especially been witnessed in Latino and African American communities who have a strenuous history and relationship with law enforcement. These areas tend to have a high turnover of crime rates and therefore have a long history of police interventions. Therefore, law enforcement officers usually have to exercise more caution because instances of building trust have been undermined. It therefore requires indefatigable police-community dialogue to appeal to the ethnicities to convince them that law enforcement exists for their benefit.
Other issues that arise are logistical in the sense that having officers on foot patrol in cities and towns that register high volumes of calls minimizes appropriate response times to these calls. This means a lot of time is expended in trying to get the officers to abandon the foot patrols and respond to motorized patrols instead. Correspondence between foot officers and dispatchers also becomes significantly difficult as the latter cannot reach the former and vice versa. Thirdly, other areas are not geographically suited for foot patrols. For instance, suburban areas are much bigger and therefore law enforcement officers would be required to cover large square miles and hence, these areas would conventionally be covered by police in patrol cars. Consequently, it becomes extremely difficult to execute community policing strategies due to the area to be covered. In relation to this, some areas pose a security risk as law enforcement officers are vulnerable to ambush attacks. This usually occurs when police officers divert from their usual path in an attempt to cover the entire perimeter and instead encounter violent gangs or armed thugs. This then requires tactical changes in that police officers have to vary their daily activities. There is perceived lack of support for foot patrol because it is thought to be less effective in crime management. This is also propelled by the fact that most officers prefer motorized patrols as they have to interact less with the community. Hence, most admit that foot patrol requires a lot of human relation skills, something they were unwilling to learn or engage in. in addition to this, both law enforcement officers and the community perceive foot patrol as less effective and more of soft skills application as they do not do as much traffic control or arrests as motorized patrols. Therefore, the skill of community engagement has slowly been phased out by motorized patrols which makes foot patrols less effective and more challenging to carry out. They also view it as an outdated style of policing because the dynamics of policing have changed due to an increase in demographics and changes in crime-handling techniques. Police officers are more involved in answering dispatcher calls and this leaves little or no time for foot patrol. Summarily, these perceptions are brought about by the existing crime control and handling models that have been entrenched into the psyche of law enforcement officers. This model emphasizes on enforcement, arrests, strategy and citations. Hence, certain departments do not get the expected results or positive feedback when they conduct foot patrols. Therefore, there exists the challenge of connecting agencies in foot patrol deployment and traditional crime control interventions which often leads to a rift between foot patrol officers and motorized patrollers. This could be detrimental to the work duties of police officers. The other issue that arises is the lack of resource allocation to foot patrol departments. There are fewer foot patrol officers than motorized ones due to insufficient man power.
Although foot patrol is perceived as not fitting in the existing crime control model, it has shown significant improvement in building the relations between the community and law enforcement officers.
- Cassandra Chaney, W. T. (2016). Law enforcement perceptions of their relationship with community: Law enforcement surveys and community focus groups. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment , 413-429.
- Charlotte Gill, D. W. (2014). Community-oriented policing to reduce crime, disorder and fear and increase satisfaction and legitimacy among citizens: a systematic review. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 399–428.
- Tepe, Y. Y. (2013). Citizen Satisfaction with Police and Community Policing. European Scientific Journal .